Name: Nhat Vuong
Nationality or Ethnicity: Swiss from Vietnam
Where do you live? In Switzerland
Languages: French, English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Japanese and German
What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
My parents came to Switzerland back in 1980 as Vietnamese refugees and I grew up most of my life near Geneva. In Switzerland, every person has to study English and another national language, which means that most of the people you will meet here will speak at least 3 languages by the end of high-school. In my case, I could speak French, English and German. Growing up in a Vietnamese family, I have always spoken Vietnamese at home with my family and during university I decided to study Spanish in Valencia during a summer holiday and also did a university exchange in Santiago of Chili, which helped to solidify my Spanish. After graduating with a Master degree in Business, I followed a Japanese girlfriend, who I met in Valencia and went to Japan where I lived in Tokyo for 8 years. The funny part is that we were speaking in Spanish during our 5 years of relationship even when I was living in Japan. I have returned to Switzerland in 2015 and have now become an independent webmarketing consultant www.digitalinception.ch and working on a project to build an incubator for start-ups working on sustainable development projects called the Tiny Green Village.
Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
It’s hard to say, but maybe German and Japanese because they are my weakest and there aren’t many opportunities in the French part of Switzerland to practice them.
What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I was thinking either Mandarin or Russian
So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Haha, I think that it’s French, but I think Spanish is a serious competitor.
What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
The face people make when they realise I can speak their language then the friendly exchange that usually follows.
Some people say the world is really just going to have a few languages left in a 100 years, do you think this is really true?
I don’t think it will happen but now that more Chinese people speak English than English natives, we can’t deny that the world is turning into fewer languages. Time will tell us.
What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Start today! Learn English first of course, then go with languages you love. You can’t learn a language if you don’t like it. Get a girlfriend that speaks that language if you want to go faster ;) . Start with the pronunciation. You can’t effectively learn a language if you can’t differentiate all the different sounds. The vocabulary and the grammar should follow. Learning languages open new doors and new opportunities for you. If you speak more than 1 language you are probably doing better than half of the world. So just do it!